Raw food restaurants usually get a bad rap for serving food that's artful but less than filling. An exception is Alive! in the Marina, which offers vegetarian morsels as substantial as they are visually tasty. In true artisan fashion, owner/Chef Leland Jung and his staff take as many as three or four days to craft some items, which include delicate pastas made of raw zucchini noodles and eye-catching pizzas featuring crusts of almonds and flax seeds.
But S.F. native Jung, who grew up watching his father prepare dumplings for the family's dim sum restaurant, makes one entree that's neither on the menu nor as pleasing to the eye as the others. This fairly solid mass of green-and-brown flecked paste (a melange of seeds and summer vegetables) wouldn't win any design accolades, but it's quickly gaining underground cult status thanks to a local Yahoo Internet group called SF Raw: It's uncooked, organic, vegetarian dog food.
Jung, formerly a Silicon Valley-based software developer, presents himself as a shy soul, but visibly perks up when talking about the inspiration for his hippie puppy chow: his 8-year-old border collie, Echo, who stirred him to begin volunteering for the San Francisco SPCA. Jung later became a certified canine trainer, and continues to read stacks of books on dog nutrition. “Sometimes I go a little overboard,” he smiles.
He learned that a diet consisting of bones and raw food — aka BARF — provides an ideal protein balance for hounds. (Dr. Jack Aldridge, director of veterinary services at the S.F. SPCA, warns that BARF diets often include traces of raw meat, which can introduce salmonella. “If you follow the right recommendations, I think some of these things can be pretty nutritionally balanced as long as they are made intelligently and [are] not based on hunches about what a dog should be eating,” he says.)
Jung says that his retired parents aren't thrilled with his career choice.
“They'd probably prefer that I go back to the computer field.”